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Steps Along the Way: Molecular Electronics

Even technologies with enormous potential can lie dormant unless there are significant payoffs along the way to reward those that pioneer them. That's one of the reasons integrated circuits developed so rapidly; each advance found an immediate market willing to apply it and enrich the innovator that created it.

Does molecular engineering have this kind of payoff? I think it does.

Remembering that we may be less than 10 years away from hitting the wall as far as scaling our existing electronics, a great deal of research is presently going on in the area of molecular and quantum electronics. The payoff is easy to calculate; you can build devices 1000 times faster, more energy efficient, and cheaper than those we're currently using--at least 100 times better than exotic materials being considered to replace silicon when it reaches its limits.

Editor: John Walker